With almost 60 years of history, Lincolnshire Drainage Company (LDC) has a lot to be proud of. Working across Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, LDC has over 1,600 repeat customers who benefit from LDC's vast experience in agricultural and civil drainage schemes.
At the heart of LDC's operation is its fleet of Mastenbroek trenchers and crawler trucks. At the end of 2022, LDC took delivery of its latest Mastenbroek machine – a state-of-the-art 30/20 drainage trencher. However, LDC and Mastenbroek have worked together since the very beginning. In fact, LDC's founder – Willem den Hartog - was one of John Mastenbroek's first customers.
"John was a pioneer of agricultural drainage here in the UK," says Christopher Pett, Mastenbroek's commercial director. "He came to the UK to sell Dutch-made trenchers to British contractors. However, when he found the area's soils too challenging for the machines he was promoting, he decided to develop his own range of trenchers and the Mastenbroek brand was born. As part of the development work, John spent a lot of time with Willem den Hartog, who also saw the benefits drainage could bring to farmers. LDC and Mastenbroek developed in tandem, and that close relationship continues to this day."
The 30/20 is fitted with two dual-speed motors to maximise torque across the digging chain speed range. The result is optimum digging power in varied and heavy soils, enabling on-grade sub-surface drainage for agricultural laterals and collectors and cross-country trenching.
In 2022 Mastenbroek celebrated the 40th birthday of its CT12 gravel cart. The milestone moment was celebrated with a significant upgrade to the machine, with a new larger, full-width hopper and a redesigned operator cab added to the machine.
Mastenbroek has also improved its 30/20 drainage trencher since it was introduced in the 1990s. Many improvements have been suggested by Mastenbroek's customers, including George Firth, Project Manager of LDC.
"LDC has a long-standing relationship with the team at Mastenbroek, stretching back beyond 2006 when my father, David, acquired the business," says George. "As well as working on agricultural drainage, we are undertaking more and more civil work. Our civil customers are constantly looking for new and improved safety features alongside performance. That's why we asked Mastenbroek to alter the width of the operator walkways on our 30/20s, which they did.
"LDC has always invested in new equipment to ensure our customers receive a cost-effective and efficient job. We hope that the latest 30/20 trencher added to the fleet will provide more productivity for our drainage teams. As it features the new Hagglunds chain drives and increased higher horsepower, it should certainly be faster than the previous version."
All of the 30/20 trenchers that LDC operates feature GPS depth control, a system that Mastenbroek, Trimble and Farm Works Software developed in conjunction with LDC.
"We were the first contractor in Europe to use GPS depth control on agricultural drainage projects," says George. "The latest software version is installed on all our trenchers and delivers precise level control. This allows us to accurately lay our drains 'on grade' to the correct levels in the field, digging only to the required depth and allowing us to use the required amount of aggregates.
"We achieve this by surveying every drain individually with the trencher. This will appear on a screen in the cab for the operator to see, allowing them to see where there are any lower areas. Therefore we can use aggregates more effectively, directly targeting each low area for maximum effect each time.
"The GPS system is far better than the old laser system introduced in the 1970s. It is more accurate for depth control of the trench. It requires less labour in the field and automatically records each job as it goes, which means we can produce more precise plans once the work has been carried out. The system is also less susceptible to weather, so we can work when the elements are against us."
Since it was established, LDC has believed in the benefits that well-drained fields deliver to farmers. "Farming well-drained agricultural land is a priceless asset to any arable farmer," says George. "Well-drained land leads to increased yields, extended growing period, lower harvesting costs and lower drilling and cultivation costs.
Land drainage is a long-term investment in your land, so schemes must be considered carefully. That's why we employ independent land drainage consultants to recommend schemes that are best for the customer."
LDC's approach is working. The company currently employs 20 people, but with an order book stretching into next year for both agricultural and civil drainage projects, LDC is considering recruiting additional drivers and labourers.